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Front Pages 19 May, 2021 Follow News


June not only marks the start of the hurricane season.

For the new PACT coalition of independents, it's also a starting point to embark on realising the worthy ideals encompassed in its acronym (People-driven, Accountable, Competent and Transparent).

It sets the stage for a veritable sink or swim scenario; a perfect storm or the opportunity to set Cayman on a new course in a sea of opportunities.

A confident display by the PACT government during its recent inaugural press conference, though short on detail, points to the very real challenges facing the new administration...and by extension, Cayman.

Understandably, the new government was not expected to be brimming with detail on policy priorities and execution plans - although that would have been welcome. It has newly moved into office (the emphasis being on 'new') and is still getting to grips with the civil service landscape.

As a government formed of independents, negotiating individual portfolios after the political acrobatics of the coalition formation must be seen as an early accomplishment in itself.

But the really big decisions on which the government will be judged and rated are pending...and looming.

Chief among these are the pandemic, accelerating the vaccination drive, avoiding discarding vaccines, reopening the borders, restarting tourism, re-aligning the economy, safeguarding the environment and securing the long-term future of the vital financial services sector.

That’s just the start of a long and demanding 'to-do' list.

Notwithstanding the eagle-eyed scrutiny promised by the Official Opposition - the Progressives Alliance which formed the last government - it’s an encouraging sign to see the new ministers setting about getting a grasp of what their portfolios really entail.

Quite noticeable and laudable is the mentoring, chaperoning and general handholding of the freshman ministers, not just by Cayman’s cadre of capable senior civil servants, but by their more experienced coalition colleagues.

Those with prior ministerial and parliamentary experience stand out, notably Premier (and former minister) Wayne Panton, Speaker (and former chief minister) McKeeva Bush and former Progressives cabinet minister Juliana O'Connor-Connolly, along with Finance Minister Chris Saunders and Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan who bring their parliamentary experience from the opposition benches.

Min. Saunders seemed well on top of his brief straight off the mark with a detailed recap of how well the government’s finances - albeit inherited - have been performing, despite the impact of the pandemic.

More importantly, his realistic outlook of the hurdles that lie ahead, though sobering, is reassuring. The same goes for Min. Bryan who has demonstrated a pragmatic grasp of the challenges and opportunities in the tourism sector.

But it’s in Mr Saunders’ portfolio - and on his shoulders mainly - that the burden and responsibility of the first real policy delivery of the new administration falls.

Budget Day looms in June and translating platform pronouncements into policy while at the same time reflecting the promises of his fellow independent coalition members, will require acrobatic fiscal planning and political agility in equal measure.

In the absence of a defined mission statement by the new PACT coalition of independents, the crafting of the budget could be the real pact that glues the coalition together.

The pressure on PACT is that it’s faced with a perfect storm of pressing priorities, the likes of which none of its predecessors has had to confront.

How well it navigates this perfect storm of challenges and sails Cayman into a sea of opportunities will define its period in government.

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